Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/2
Content Warnings: social anxiety, brain injury & trauma, absentee parenting
I love cute and fluffy books with a streak of dark. However, I am also a bit tired of the childhood best friends falling in love trope. This sums up my complicated feelings about Katie Cotugno’s newest novel Top Ten. I really liked it. It has a bisexual female protagonist with social anxiety that was the first representation of explicit social anxiety I have read in YA. It has a cute, soft jock protagonist as well. The writing was good and the setting was lively. It is told in the format of a top ten lis and in a non-linear format. And yet, for me the spark just wasn’t there. The overarching reason for my review of this book is that I personally did not connect with it, but I feel like I there’s a lot of good in it that I want to gush about.
Top Ten is the story of Ryan and Gabby, who formed an unlikely friendship their freshman year of high school after they accidentally meet at a party. The novel begins with Ryan and Gabby hooking up shortly after their high school graduation and then jumps around to various major moments in their friendship. This is a book full of heart and heartbreak, friendship and romance. It’s cute and it’s fun and it has some serious discussions about issues that I haven’t seen widely represented in YA.
I loved the representation of Gabby’s social anxiety because it felt very similar to my own. I share her fear of social situation and parties. It was reassuring to see a character that was so similar to me on the page. I also loved the representation of Ryan’s struggles with concussions as a hockey player. Student athletics are so underrepresented in YA and I haven’t really seen the health issues associated with student athletics represented in YA, so that was something interesting to see.
Overall, I really liked the writing style of the book. The dialog was well-written. It was descriptive and the scenes flowed well. I just think the non-linear narrative didn’t work for me because it lacked the natural build up of a linear narrative. If you’re looking for a fun contemporary romance with quirky characters and a lot of heart, then I would definitely recommend this book.